Saturday, September 30, 2006

Can't anyone here play defense?

If you're a high school football coach with a struggling defense in the Cincinnati area, I'm the last person you want to see strolling into your stadium with a laptop over his shoulder.

My previous two Enquirer assignments:

Glen Este 42 Turpin 35

Ross 52 Norwood 49

Last night's game at Norwood's Shea Stadium ended after my deadline and, so I learned late in the evening, without a working phone line on the premises. I had to dictate the story to my editor by phone, a first-time occurence for me.

Next week, can I get a nice two-hour, 14-10 game? Anyone?

A press-box worker last night had the audacity to say to me, "Great game, huh?"

I think my glare spoke for itself.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Something to play for

In a season under first-year ownership and with a new GM hired barely two weeks prior to the start of spring training, the Reds managed to remain in the race for the NL Central Division title into the season's final weekend.

Not since 1999 have the Reds been in contention for anything beyond postseason hunting and fishing trips this late in September.

The glass half-empty approach makes it easy to credit the Cardinals for allowing the Reds and Astros to remain in the race and the Reds themselves for refusing to unwrap the many gifts St. Louis has sent their way this summer.

Sure, the NL Central is anything but a powerhouse division in a league that is mediocre at best. But, Reds fans wanted a pennant race and they've got one. While the Reds' chances of winning the division border a miracle, the fact is that they are still not eliminated with three games to play.

FSN Ohio has added Sunday's telecast in the event the season finale means something. The rotation couldn't have set up any better with Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo starting the first two games in Pittsburgh.

With the Astros ahead of them as well, it's not likely the Reds, who were picked to finish fifth in the division, will achieve the unthinkable.

On second thought, haven't they already?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

ESPN: The Evil Empire

Let me get this straight ...

The top annual sports event in Cincinnati is going to be televised on a cable station not available in Cincinnati.

Who could be behind this? You guessed it, our pals at ESPN.

I'm sure Time Warner Cable has received its ransom note by now, the one which reads 'Buy our station or else. Signed, ESPN'.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Is collapse in the Cards?

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa on his club doing their best impersonation of the '64 Phillies:

"Just recognize that's the reality of our pennant race and we kept busting our ass. In the end, our ass gets busted. I like a lot of things I see except the score."

And, in all likelihood, the standings.

Five games to go in the season. Reds still not eliminated from postseason consideration.

The Astros, meanwhile, are on the brink of achieving what was once seemingly impossible.

NL Central standings

Cardinals 80-76
Astros 79-78 1.5
Reds 78-79 2.5

Monday, September 25, 2006

Not a drastic change, but ...

... the Reds will have new logos next season.

The most noticeable change is the vintage Mr. Red complete with Rollie Fingers-esque facial hair.

Nothing to it

When a reporter, in jest, suggested to Ken Griffey Jr. that the game of baseball must be "easy", the Reds outfielder grinned widely.

Of course it isn't, but future Hall of Famers often make it seem so.

After missing 17 games with a dislocated right toe, Griffey made his first plate appearance in the eighth inning of Monday's home finale at Great American Ball Park and promptly delivered a pinch-hit three-run home run to help lift the Reds to a 5-4 victory.

The home run was the 563rd of Griffey's career tying him with Reggie Jackson for 10th on the all-time list.

"I'd like to have the title of Mr. October too," said Griffey. "I was really just trying not to embarrass myself. I just got a pitch up in the zone."

Turnstile tales

Attendance for Monday's home finale at Great American Ball Park was 16,278, making the season total 2,144,472, third-best since the ballpark opened and an improvement of 201, 315 over last season.

Average attendance at Great American Ball Park was 26,352 this season, just slightly behind the Brewers for 11th in the National League.

Not a morning person

Bronson Arroyo has made clear on more than one occasion his disdain for afternoon ballgames.

The Reds right-hander dislikes them so much that he's volunteered to start on short rest just to avoid them.

In the first inning of today's 12:35 p.m. home finale, Arroyo allowed four unearned runs on two hits and a walk.

His worst pitch of the inning was one intended to force Cubs left-fielder Matt Murton at home plate. Catcher David Ross bobbled, then dropped Arroyo's low and outside toss for an error, one of two committed by the Reds in the inning.

Hey, Bronson, there's this thing called coffee ...

UPDATE: Arroyo recovered to toss seven innings, allowing just four hits, no earned runs, two walks and five strikeouts. He's slated to start on Saturday in Pittsburgh where he'll attempt to match Aaron Harang with 15 wins.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Who Dey (?)

I watched enough of the Bengals/Steelers game on my monitor at Great American Ball Park to know that Cincinnati's 28-20 victory did actually occur.

Now that I've had a chance to comb over the statistics, I'm beginning to doubt that reality.

Let me sort this through:

Chad Johnson had one catch for 11 yards.

Willie Parker had 133 rushing yards to Rudi Johnson's 47.

Carson Palmer threw two interceptions and was sacked six times.

The Steelers had 365 total yards and 27 first downs. The Bengals had 246 and 15.

And, the Bengals won?

Bottom line:

The Steelers had five turnovers. The Bengals take advantage of other team's mistakes as well as any team in the NFL, and they did so today.

Bad timing

Just as we were summoned into Jerry Narron's office for post-game comments on Sunday, the Steelers were driving for a potential tying touchdown with less than 50 seconds remaining in the game.

Oh well ... priorities.

Said Narron of Aaron Harang who notched his 15th win via Royce Clayton's game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the ninth:

"At the major league level, you have to continue to make adjustments. The past three years, he's done that. I think, by far, he's the most underrated pitcher in baseball."

We learned upon emerging from Narron's office that a Bengals' interception had preserved a 28-20 victory over Pittsburgh.

A good day all around.

Football Sunday spent working ...

at Great American Ball Park.

Writing a Reds season wrap-up column while keeping a watchful eye on the Bengals/Steelers on my TV monitor.

It's a beautifully sunny afternoon at the ballpark. All things considered, I always hate to see the home portion of the baseball season come to a close.

Interesting tidbit in today's Reds game notes:

The Reds' six errors (I hear there should have been seven) committed last night were the most since April 5, 1971 when Bernie Carbo, Frank Duffy, Woody Woodward and Don Gullett combined for six miscues.

Woodward committed three errors at third base during that game, the first Opening Day contest played at Riverfront Stadium which opened mid-season 1970.

One Red has displayed some nifty glovework:

Scott Hatteberg's error in the fifth inning Sunday was his first since May 5, a 100-game stretch.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Some Reds news ...

The Reds will be playing out the string without a couple of regulars.

Left-hander Eric Milton will have arthroscopic surgery tomorrow to clean out his left elbow. He'll finish the season at 8-8 with a 5.19 ERA in 26 starts.

Outfielder Ryan Freel will miss the remainder of the season with a hairline fracture of his left thumb. Freel suffered the injury Tuesday in Houston while diving for Luke Scott’s triple in the first inning.

Freel hit .271 with 30 doubles and tied a career-high with 37 stolen bases to go along with several highlight-reel worthy defensive plays.

Nice year for Freelie.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gammons' first concern: Austin Kearns

Hall of Fame baseball reporter Peter Gammons makes his triumphant return to ESPN tonight.

Gammons has a wonderful piece on this morning detailing his ordeal and recovery.

In it Gammons says his first realization he was on the road to recovery was when he asked how in the world Austin Kearns ended up with the Nationals.

It's good stuff. Here's the link:

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Stop and sell the Roses

The New York Daily News reported Monday that Pete Rose has put his gambling confession in writing ... on baseballs.

Word is, Hall of Famer Bob Feller is now offering "I'm sorry I've signed so many autographs that their value has been reduced to that of a Jerome Walton rookie card" baseballs for sale.

Monday, September 18, 2006

They don't write 'em like that anymore

Buried in a cardboard box among my memorabilia collection is a stack of old newspapers in protective sleeves. I call them my personal window to the past.

Among the newspapers in my possession is an issue of the Washington Star from October 2, 1932 - the day after Babe Ruth's "called shot" against the Cubs in the World Series.

There's no mention of Ruth calling his shot, but Grantland Rice's description of the day's events are spine-tingling. Examples:

"The battle carried action from the start. It sparkled with rare fielding plays like sunlight on morning frost in the harvest field".

"The big Babe was exchanging quip and jibe with the Cubs bench. And after each exchange the sunny atmosphere was full of sulphur".

But, the best was Rice's lede paragraphs:

"That far, echoing rumbling roar you must of heard yesterday afternoon was the old Yankee rock crusher rolling once more across the flattened, prostrate bodies of the Cubs. In the driver's seat were those two mighty men of baseball, Ruth and Gehrig, Babe and Lou, the dynamite twins".

"In the presence of 50,000 startled Cub rooters, this dynamic pair of slugging mastodons lit the fuse to four home runs with a fusillade that drove Charley Root from the field with his ears still ringing in the wake of a bombardment he will never forget".

"It was the drum beat leading the funeral march of Cub hopes. It was the tocsin sounding the coming of destruction of any Chicago dream".

In this ESPN-instant gratification age, stories aren't stories anymore. They're just information.

That's a shame.

Last rites?

I passed Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty in the press box at Great American Ball Park last week following the finale of the Reds' three-game series against the Padres.

I asked Doc if he was writing an obituary for the local nine. He said, "Maybe so".

As each day passes, we become more reflective on the milestones and mishaps of an up and down season for the Reds.

When the dust settles on the 2006 campaign, I would imagine Reds fans would have more hope for the future of this franchise than they've had in many a year.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Willy misses the Queen City

Former Reds reliever, and 1999 NL Rookie of the Year, Scott Williamson still considers Cincinnati his home.

Williamson, now a member of the San Diego Padres, lives in Guilford, IN. His wife, Lisa, owns and operates an Avalon Salon & Spa in Hyde Park.

"I definitely didn't want to leave here," Williamson told me prior to tonight's game. "Out of all the cities I've played in, I enjoyed it [in Cincinnati] the most. Boston was fun because we went to a World Series. Chicago was horrible."

Williamson, who is currently on the DL with a right elbow strain, traveled with the club for the three-game series at Great American Ball Park.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Too much of a good thing?

A quick glance at my schedule for the week revealed this:

Six games, six days, eight different teams, four venues, two cities.

I'm covering the Reds/Padres three-game series for, a prep football game for the Enquirer on Friday, attending UC/Ohio State on Saturday in Columbus in a non-working capacity, and covering the Browns/Bengals game on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium for my weekly column.

Barring rain delays or overtime, that's 27 innings of baseball and 12 quarters of football on three different levels in less than a week.

If I'm lucky, I can find time to scarf down a brat and a beer at Oktoberfest.

My plan for Monday is to NOT be watching sports.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A sad irony

It was Chiefs quarterback Trent Green who provided added motivation for Carson Palmer to recover in time to start Sunday's game at Kansas City.

Green, who suffered a devastating knee injury in 1999 while with the Rams, called Palmer to offer words of encouragement.

"It's awesome," said Palmer of Green's gesture. "It's something that has stuck with me. It just helps you being a young quarterback in this league and looking up to guys like Green who have been around a long time. He's a veteran and definitely a leader."

That just added to the shock of seeing Green lying motionless on the turf after enduring a hard hit by Bengals defensive end Robert Geathers during Cincinnati's 23-10 victory over the Chiefs.

The most recent reports are that Green had feeling in his extremities and was moving. X-rays were negative.

You can be sure that Palmer is about to return Green's favor, if he hasn't already.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Not seeing Reds

I'm among the young and the Reds-less for a few more days. Due to football constraints, I won't visit Great American Ball Park again until Tuesday. Even then, I'm on the Padres beat.

If Jerry Narron's club makes a surprise return to the playoff chase, send me a note.

Reading played take-away from Deer Park last night. Here's my Enquirer coverage:

On a final note: Go Buckeyes.

Friday, September 08, 2006

On the craft

It does get tiresome listening to the bitter, cynical faction in sports journalism complain about being underpaid, underappreciated and moan about the perils of having to contend with the rich and famous on a daily basis.

But, truthfully, this isn't all glitz and glamour. We don't just go to games for free, we go to stadiums to work. We don't get to talk to famous athletes, we are required to deal with them. Press box dining rooms aren't five-star and deadline pressure isn't for the faint of heart.

For those who think we waltz into the ballpark for free, cheer for our favorite team from the comfort of the press box, mingle with the players afterwards and then leisurely tap out a story and collect our six-figure check, well, you couldn't be more wrong.

That said, this is a dream job for most of us.

For anyone who's interested, the following link is from an industry message board. It's a fairly accurate portrayal of sports journalism and the misconceptions many people have about the business:,31409.0.html

Monday, September 04, 2006

No words to express

Rich Aurilia was one of the few Reds players to emerge in a largely vacant clubhouse following Monday night's crushing 5-4 loss to the Giants at Great American Ball Park.

When a beat reporter and I approached the Reds infielder, Aurilia just smiled and said, "I've got nothing".

I told Aurilia that I didn't blame him.

He said it wasn't really a "no comment", it's just that he didn't know where to begin to sum up the Reds' latest heart-wrenching defeat.

The Reds were defeated tonight. In every sense of the word.

Bleary-eyed and beaten

The Reds landed at CVG around midnight, and the mood in the clubhouse this afternoon was about what you'd expect following a 2-8 trip.

Still, the unflappable Reds never let their emotions get the best of them, for better or worse.

Interesting comment from manager Jerry Narron, saying this homestand is "make or break. It might not make us, but it certainly could break us".

Here's the notebook for today. Yes, some of us have to labor on Labor Day. I hope Mark Sheldon is enjoying his day off.